AN arson investigation has been launched after firefighters were called to a blaze at a once iconic south Essex cinema.

Firefighters were called to the former State Cinema in Grays on Thursday after reports of a fire at 7.24pm.

Once they arrived, fire crews found multiple seats on fire and worked to extinguish the fires.

They made the scene safe by 8.07pm and left the incident with the police, as the cause was recorded as deliberate.

An Essex Police spokesman said: “We were alerted to reports of a fire inside a property in George Street, Grays, shortly before 7.20pm on Thursday July 4.  

“The cause of the fire was recorded as deliberate and our enquiries are going. 

“Anyone with any information or footage which could assist us should get in touch.

“You can let us know by submitting a report on our website or by using our online Live Chat service which is available 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week. 

“It can be found at the bottom right of our homepage at 

“Visit to find out more about our website reporting services.

“Please cite incident 1048 of 4 July.”

Costing £100,000, the Art Deco cinema was constructed in 1938 by the famous architect FGM Chancellor and was one of the largest single-screen cinemas within Essex, with more than 2,200 seats. It featured a giant Compton Organ.

Sadly the cinema stopped showing films in 1988, shortly after it had featured in the Who Framed Roger Rabbit film, and has laid dormant ever since.

In October, Wetherspoon bosses scrapped £5 million plans to turn the listed cinema into a new pub after works on the site were halted twice, first in 2019 due to the appointed contractor’s insolvency, and then when Covid struck.